CyberFLASH: The Internet of Things moving us toward connected homes

images-126It’s lunchtime at race car driver Alex Tagliani’s house, and there are no fewer than a dozen people buzzing around. Landscapers are putting in a new front yard, a curtain company employee is up on a ladder, wrestling with the motorized drapes for a product photo shoot and a toddler is running around, demanding to be fed.

Tagliani has made a name for himself on the Indy and NASCAR circuits. But, after years of living in Las Vegas and Indianapolis, he has returned to his native Quebec, settling down in an impressive $1.4(ish)-million home nestled in the scenic suburbs of Lorraine with his wife, Bronte, and their daughter Eva-Rose.

The house was custom built according to Tagliani’s vision of a modern smart home. He was the general contractor on the project, coordinating the architect, interior designers and a small army of independent contractors, including a home-automation team.

“I spent a year and a half messing around with the build,” Tagliani says.

From the moment he considered building a house, Tagliani knew he wanted it to be “smart” — a connected home that learns from and syncs to his family’s behaviours. He hired HomeSync, a Montreal-based home-automation installer that he’d previously worked with when customizing his last place, a condo in Laval. (HomeSync doesn’t manufacture its own hardware, but rather connects other companies’ components.)

Privacy concerns

Earlier this year, design flaws in Samsung’s SmartThings allowed people to remotely hack a front-door lock. There’s very little to stop a determined and tech-savvy criminal or mischief-maker to glean what your devices have learned about you and use it against you.

Gobi enjoys the convenience and novelty of the technology, but he is concerned about the SmartThings hack. He’s considering switching to Apple’s recently launched HomeKit because it offers high-security encryption. “The encryption they’re asking for is really, really high. If we think more about Big Brother issues with the Internet of Things and the smart home, I would be more comfortable to use high-security devices and I’m happy that Apple is now fighting a battle for privacy,” Gobi says.

Still, training connected devices to recognize your habits also means opting in to having an unprecedented amount of your deeply personal data compiled and kept on file by someone, somewhere, without knowing exactly if and how it’s used.

In 2016, Canada’s privacy commission published a guide on connected devices and IoT and concerns related to them, particularly as it pertains to data harvesting. “The full impact of the Internet of Things for our privacy may become more evident when its capabilities are combined with other innovations shaping our world today that track not only our activities, movements, behaviours and preferences, but our emotions and our thoughts,” the report concludes.

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